Opening Night: Area of Rescue

aor-irons.jpgI left an afternoon barbecue Saturday, stuffed full of meat and beer, to attend the opening of Area of Rescue at the Connelly Theatre. Laura Eason’s show, produced by Andhow! Theater Company, is about, well, according to the poetic-slash-cryptic description from the press materials:

The trees are being stripped and burned.
Ashes rain from the sky.
A family deals with the aftermath of a woman being swallowed by the sea.
With the proper ID card, safety is right next door.
But if not in this life, then in the next.
Area of Rescue.

Set in a dystopic future (and these days, a dystopian visions seems less like divergent futures than prognostications), a family struggles with the death of a young mother, drowned under mysterious circumstances. The day of her funeral also happens to be her daughter’s birthday, but before the family can mourn, questions surrounding the tragedy must be answered.

Andhow!, when describing the company aesthetic, says “productions are firmly based in story, are highly theatrical, and create fantastical and/or new worlds with high production values,” which is certainly true of AoR. Nestled in the stately proscenium of the Connelly is Neal Wilkinson’s sterile, futuristic set, complete with pneumatic doors that seem to operate on the same principle as those on the starship Enterprise. Video projections by Dustin O’Neill help define the landscape. Additional deft touches telegraph the claustrophobic nature of the author’s vision, from the laminated ID cards each character wears to the protective cloaks they don when stepping outdoors to the hermetic-looking, uniform costumes.

This is a future where, the audience gleans, laws are based on moral absolutes, and religion delineates one’s place in society. A functionary with ties to the family is in charge of the inquiry, while just outside their home, the government is clearing all the trees to build an area of rescue in order to protect citizens from a vague, undefined threat. The drama plays out amidst subtle accusations and the machinations of a nosy neighbor. The nature of belief is the central question, and beliefs are questioned in search of the truth.

The opening night celebration was held in the lobby. It was a small, chummy affair. Or should I say a family affair; the company is run by husband and wife Andrew Irons and Jessica Davis-Irons. (She directed Area of Rescue.) I wanted to stay, but still surfeited from my earlier soiree, I chose to forgo the food and drink. As I was leaving, I couldn’t help but notice Kiki Hernandez, who plays the daughter, surrounded by her real life family, a bouquet of flowers cradled in each arm. The show marks her stage debut, and it was clear she was overjoyed, as were her well-wishers, their happiness a marked contrast to the loss that pervades the characters in the play.

Pictured Left to Right: Kiki Hernandez, Arthur Aulisi.
Photo by: Jacob Stokley Irons

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